The Tale of the Three Grapes
Every river begins its long journey from a source. Our enterprise has also its original spring, where the freshwater first gushed out to form a stream, rapidly joined and strengthened by other like-minded streams, to finally form all together this river.
Some four centuries ago, the Tale of the Three Grapes brought Takkeci (Arakiyeci) Ibrahim Aga from Istanbul to Baghdad, in a long and toilsome travel, just to discover that a hidden treasure, as a reward from his Lord, was waiting for him back home (1). “The ways of God are indeed inscrutable,” I had said to myself when reading this enigmatic historical narration.
Some four years later I embarked in a long journey that took me from the coasts of Bosphorus to the shores of the Tigris… In 2013, when working in the Iraq Governance Strengthening Project, amidst political crisis and escalating violence, in a tough environment of a closed compound in Baghdad, walled away from this city with a great history but with a sorrow present, I was looking out from our “prison” at the peacefully flowing Tigris when I suddenly remembered that story. My spirit went back to the city I came from and to the reasons I came for… and, in a flash, the original idea of this project was born.
The rest can be described as a “rapid business development process”, or, even better, an amazing journey of collecting and putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, to apply the design emerged in the mind. Long years of hands-on experience, broad network of professional relationships, scrupulous analysis of needs and opportunities, dreams and passion, vision and courage, and faith, all harmoniously have woven together to make real the Middle East Development Network.
President of MDN
1: The Tale of the Three Grapes: In 2009 I read in Istanbul the story of Takkeci (Arakiyeci) Ibrahim Aga and the mosque that he has built in 1591, in Topkapi district next to the historical city walls of Istanbul. The story had impressed and deeply moved me. Takkeci (Arakiyeci) Ibrahim was a poor maker of felt hats called “takke” or “arakiye” in Turkish. He lived in a poor house built upon a coalbunker. Once he saw in his dream an old man who advised him to go to Baghdad, solely for God’s sake, to eat three grapes which are his lot destined to him. When he saw the same dream three consecutive times, he undertook a long journey to Baghdad, to simply find and eat the three grapes, to fulfill his destiny. At the shores of the river Tigris he found the vineyard described in his dream and started to search for his three grapes among thousands of grapes around. A local man was amazed with his attitude and asked the why. When Ibrahim Aga confessed to him that following a dream he made all this long way to just eat few grapes, the local man mockingly laughed his “foolishness”. The man then told that he also used to see a dream that there were three chunks of gold beneath a coalbunker of a “takke”-maker in Topkapi area in Istanbul, waiting for him in a hidden treasure. But even for such a treasure he didn’t take the pain of a long and hard travel to Istanbul. At that very moment Ibrahim Aga understood what was the divine wisdom behind this journey. It was the heaven’s gift to him, because he did not stay lazily at home, but undertook a self-sacrificing endeavor to follow his destiny. He returned to Istanbul to dig the coalbunker under his home and to find the treasure. Thanking God he built a beautiful small mosque that immortalized his name and his story.
I remembered this story in Baghdad at end of August 2013, after long months spent in Iraq, amidst constant prayer and self-questioning. “Why have I came here, from lively Istanbul to prison-like Baghdad, in such difficult times and hard conditions?” The moral of the story was that a man may live unaware upon a treasure, and sometimes he needs to undertake a long journey away to realize the treasure he possesses.